Brigadier General George R. Crook (September 8, 1828 -March 21, 1890) is popularly recognized as the quintessential 'Indian Fighter' of the late nineteenth century. In the Apache Campaign, Crook's troopers frequented the Mogollon Rim above Fort Verde in central Arizona Territory on the path to engage the Tonto Apache. This crest trail is designated as Forest Service Road 300.
Located at the crest of the Mogollon Rim, the trail that became Forest Service Road 300 (FS 300) served as the primary path for engagements against the Tonto Apache. FS 300 traverses the 2,000 feet above the Verde Valley on the Colorado Plateau. There are several historical landmarks along the route, such as the '13 mile rock', military telegraph lines, and the grave of Andres Moreno of 'E' Company. Thirteen miles from Fort Verde, near the ridge of the Colorado Plateau, is an original rock carving, marking the troopers' ascent from the Verde Valley. A quarter of a mile onto FS 300, there are white insulators scattered in the forest, from the original nineteenth century telegraph lines. One mile from Hwy 87 is the grave of Andres Moreno who served in the 1st Arizona Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant Primitivo Cervantes in 1865. In 1887, teamster Knox Lee murdered Moreno. Lee plead guilty for manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years.
In 1871, Crook used this route as he began the unenviable mission of attempting to separate native Apache on the Colorado Plateau from white settlers in the Verde Valley. According to Lt. John G. Bourke, “Our line of travel was due east--at the base of the great Mogollon range to Camp Verde.” General Crook was usually the first man to 'saddle-up' each morning onto his mule 'Apache'.
In April that year, following raids on early homesteaders, Crook's men routed a band of over twenty Tonto Apache. The after action report recorded thirty one “Indians killed”, no wounded, and two captured. Apache oral history states that the incident was a “massacre” by the Army. The lack of any 'wounded Indians,' along with no record of the commanding officer, leads to suspicion over the circumstances of the engagement. Crook recorded, “One of the difficulties in managing such Indians is that you must delegate your powers and depend upon others to execute. There are questions constantly arising which require prompt action, even if the most summary punishment should be melted out to them.” Unfortunately, General Crook's legitimate concerns over junior officers implementing his concerns over restraint, landed on General Sheridan's desk, who supported the “extermination” of the Indians. In August 1871, the Apache's retribution may have resulted in the killing of farmer Joseph Burroughs, a homesteader in the 'Rio Verde.'
In 1875, General Crook departed the Department of Arizona to report to the Department of the Platte. Many of his concerns with the Apache remained unresolved, but his route became FS 300, a well- established supply route to the Colorado Plateau and the White Mountains.